Backwoods Muskie Adventures

Secluded Honey Holes

You might have heard that muskies are “the fish of 10,000 casts.” I can attest to that. I’ve gone days and even weeks without catching a Muskie. Maybe I wasn’t fishing every day, but a Muskie drought is something I try to avoid. I also try to avoid fishing pressure. That’s why I took to OnX and Google Earth to try to find a secluded riverbend with good structure and deep holes. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy getting back to this spot, but it would be worth it.

The river I was fishing holds a little bit of everything: Bluegill, Perch, Crappie, Walleye, Small mouth, Large mouth, Northern, and Muskie. The cool thing about this particular river is that it is extremely narrow and extremely shallow. The average depth across 30+ miles of river is between two and three feet, which means that a hole around five or six feet deep will hold a pile of fish. Having fished almost every inch of this river over the course of my life, I knew exactly where I wanted to try. It was a rocky bend with a deep hole and lots of fast-moving water.

About 10 years prior, my dad and I were canoeing this particular area and he lost a monster right at the canoe. That memory is so vivid in my mind, and I knew I had to go to that spot. It sounds crazy, but I had a feeling I would catch a big Muskie just because I kept replaying that memory over and over again in my mind.

After doing some research and mapping out the easiest way to get to this spot, I set out for my destination after work. The plan was to drive down a forest road about a mile, then walk a quarter mile through the woods to the river. It actually seemed like an easy access plan. Plans don’t always go as intended, and the road was too wet to even make it a half mile in. So, I walked the last three quarters of a mile and found myself in some thick jungle. I finally made it to the riverbank, covered in mosquitos and ticks. It started to rain so I threw on my raincoat and some bug spray. I couldn’t quite tell how deep the river was, and the bank was a straight five-foot drop. I found an old beaver slide and carefully made my way down.

The water was about waist high, and I waded across to a shallower area. While I was wading across, I thought, “While I’m out in the middle, I might as well cast by that big rock over there.” Sure enough, first cast of the night I caught a short Muskie. Fish of 10,000 casts?! More like one! I released the fish and put my GoPro on my head. About ten minutes later, casting next to a big boulder on the riverbank, another short Muskie smoked my silver bladed bucktail. It came off before I could get my hands on it, but two fish in ten minutes had me excited to get down to the rocky bend. I didn’t see any other fish until I got down to that deep hole.

I threw a cast out in between some rocks and had a small Bass bump it. Next cast was in the middle of the hole, and I barely had time to start reeling before a Muskie snagged my bait. It felt like a good fish, and a few seconds later it was doing acrobatics through the air. Two big flips and she spit my bucktail back at me, almost taunting me. While I would have loved to catch that fish, it wasn’t the big one I was looking for.

Redemption

After readjusting my drag, and bending my bucktail back into place, I threw another cast into the exact same spot. BOOM! Something big hammered my bait and almost pulled me forward with it!

At first, I thought it was the fish I just lost, but there was no way that fish was going to hit again. This fish inhaled my bucktail, and never even rippled the surface as I brought her in. After a couple minutes of pulling her upriver, I finally got a glimpse of her, and she was a dandy! I slowly wore her out, and carefully beached her in a few inches of water. I know what you’re thinking, “You should really have a net.” No. There was no way I was going to bring a Muskie net through all that bush. The river bottom was 100% sand in this spot, so there was no way for the fish to hurt itself. Anyways, I got her unhooked and grabbed a quick photo with my GoPro resting on my backpack. She was by no means a monster, but she was my personal best on this river. It was a beautiful fish, and I would guess she had never been caught before. She had every single fin and tail completely intact, not an ounce of imperfection on her.

That was the last fish I hooked that night. I fished for a couple more hours and saw a few more fish, but none were hungry enough to eat. I like to think they all knew the queen had just been caught. You never know what you will catch in a river system, but I can always count on a Muskie in this river. There are some well known spots with easy access, and those spots definitely hold fish, and some big fish at that. There’s just something about the allure of trekking through the woods to an unknown destination, knowing there won’t be another soul in sight. If you want to catch more fish, or bigger fish, get away from the crowds. It will pay off.

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